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8 Winter Solstice Recipes To Welcome The Shortest Day

There are so many delicious ways to celebrate the (slow) return of the light.

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Thanks to ancient monuments like Ireland’s Newgrange, we know that human beings have celebrated and marked the arrival of the winter solstice for many thousands of years. Though the length of each will depend on where in the Northern Hemisphere you are, the shortest day of the year is also the longest night. For ages, people have observed this turning point in the year with festivals of light and joy that defy all that darkness, as well as winter solstice recipes. In various ways around the world, people gather and hold vigil for the returning of the light. Many traditions favor brightly-colorful foods for winter solstice and fire of some sort, whether they’re lighting rows of cozy candles or roaring, yule-logged fires.

Winter solstice is a fun holiday to mark with kids, because it is rich with ancient history and legend, and kids just adore the very kinds of facts, history, and legends that come with a holiday like this. There really are no rules about the right or wrong way to mark this celestial event (which falls every year on Dec. 21), so you can feel free to pull from ancient traditions, global festivities, and also to make it up as you go along. Marking the first day of winter could be as simple as curling up with a wintery movie, lighting lots of candles and sipping a big mug of something warm or as elaborate as hosting a big, glittery annual party. Whatever you decide to do, here are some winter solstice foods — each carrying some degree of historical significance — to warm you up on the longest, darkest night of the year.


Swedish Saffron Buns (Lussekatter)

Swedish saffron buns for St. Lucia Day.

These glowing buns are traditionally served on St. Lucia Day in Sweden, a holiday that is closely associated with the winter solstice because it falls on Dec. 13 which was the same date the solstice fell on in the old Julian calendar system. The two holidays make sense together, though one is Christian and one more pagan or secular, because they are both all about welcoming light in the darkness. There’s no sweeter way to celebrate that than with this gorgeous, rich saffron bun recipe from recipe developer Cecelia Tolone, an American baker living in Sweden.


Hot Chocolate

Winter solstice marks return of the light, but it’s also just the very beginning of winter. To fend off any potential winter blues, you’ll need everyone’s tummies full of seriously joy-inducing sustenance, and hot chocolate is exactly that. This hot chocolate recipe from The Modern Proper is classic, easy, and so delicious.


Dongji-Patjuk (Korean Red Bean Porridge)

Food blogger and YouTube-er Maangchi shares a beautiful recipe for a traditional Korean winter solstice dish called Patjuk. Glutinous rice balls bob in a smooth, slightly sweet porridge made from adzuki beans in this hearty, traditional solstice recipe. Why red beans? Well, as Maangchi explains, “Koreans believe that the color red wards off evil spirits, so this red porridge wishes good luck for the new year. My grandmother used to smear some porridge on her front door for good measure, and many people would leave a little bowl of it in front of their houses.”


Mulled Wine

If you only do one festive, wintery thing on the winter solstice this year, make it sipping this lovely mulled wine. Called glögg in Sweden and Glühwein in Germany, warm, spiced wine is peak winter joy. Your house will smell divine, and your guests — a pot of mulled wine demands at least an invited guest or two — will thank you.


Bûche De Noël (Yule Log Cake)

In modern times, we might think of this classic winter cake as a Christmas dessert, but ‘yule’ actually refers to ancient winter solstice celebrations. So, embrace the shortest day with the very best kind of yule log — one you can eat! Sally, over at Sally’s Baking Recipes, has a beautiful and easy-to-follow (if rather elaborate) Bûche De Noël recipe.



Sticklers might argue either that wassailing is really a Twelfth Night tradition in England (meaning happening on the twelfth night after Christmas), or that it originated as a harvest festival earlier in the season (perhaps before Halloween, when the orchards were full). However, because it is — like so many winter solstice traditions — so heavily associated with celebrations that are meant to warding off of evil spirits by waving torches around in the dark night, wassail feels an appropriate beverage for winter solstice revelry, too. This lovely, simple wassail recipe from Cookie and Kate would be the perfect grown-up tipple for a solstice party.


Mistletoe Cookies

The ancient Greeks called winter solstice Haloea (a Festival of Poseidon), while the Scandinavian counterpart, Yule, celebrated Freya. Both, however, relied on mistletoe as an evergreen symbol of renewal and vitality in the dead of winter. While you should absolutely not eat mistletoe (it’s poisonous), you can make these adorable mistletoe cookies to serve at your solstice celebration.



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While this isn’t exactly a recipe, eating pomegranates does require a bit of work. Pomegranates are a traditional food of Iran’s Shab-e Yalda celebrations, a winter solstice tradition with ancient roots. “Yalda” means birth or rebirth, and the vibrantly red fruit is said to symbolize dawn and life. Plus, pomegranates are a fun fruit to enjoy with your kids — it may get a little messy, but that’s half the fun of any good party.

Whether you try these recipes or just go for a steaming hot bowl of soup to represent warmth, these winter solstice recipes are such a fun tradition idea.

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